You’ve got to hand it to the EU’s leadership. They are planning to welcome a Joe Biden victory with a proposal for renewed and refreshed co-operation – preferably on Europe’s terms.
It is billed as a “once-in-a-generation” offer for the US to join the EU’s many committees and after the usual excruciating discussion, agree to adopt its approach in areas like digital regulation, competition policy, security and post-Covid action.
No doubt a Biden administration will find something to like in the European menu. But not as much as the Europeans might hope.
Continue reading “Europe’s false step on tech”
Matt Ridley – former science editor of The Economist and prolific popular science writer – has tackled a slippery subject in his book ‘How Innovation Works’. He succeeds in painting a vibrant and at times counter intuitive picture of this process. One that policy makers and public alike can usefully ponder.
A major contribution is demystification. He trashes the model of a tortured genius locked in the lab. Innovation comes from lots of people, competing or in concert, working by trial and error, sharing or stealing knowledge. It occurs when the conditions are right, because it bubbles out of the accumulation and testing of knowledge (hence the prevalence of simultaneous invention from calculus to light bulbs). ‘Ideas having sex’ is his metaphor of choice. And this tends to happen where innovators can gather and experiment free of restrictions.
Continue reading “Innovation works very well indeed”
Pretty much everything has a breaking point. The only questions are where, when and how. Might it be coming soon with climate change policy?
This week there was disarray in the Australian Liberal and National party coalition over the costs of climate change policy. This was one of the issues which helped sink Malcolm Turnbull’s premiership. It’s significant because political parties have a big incentive to hide the washing of their dirty linen, certainly until they have agreed an electorally marketable compromise.
And in the UK, Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have been hinting that they might bring forward to 2032 the proposed date to ban the sale of petrol and diesel-powered vehicles. Continue reading “Climate change policy is not stable – something has to break”
India’s decision not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership promoted by China is politically significant. But its impact on trade and prosperity is more nuanced, as Bloomberg explains.
It avoids some market opening on both sides (India to agriculture; others to services) that would have been economically beneficial. But the greater significance of the pact is the restrictions on access it would impose on those outside the regional trade grouping.
“Still, the effect of harmonizing standards at the regional-agreement rather than global level is the opposite of an opening of trade … The standards that are established across the zone inevitably resemble those of its largest member. That would be fine in a global agreement, but in a regional deal the effect is to raise barriers to nations outside the bloc with different rules.” Continue reading “China and India’s regional trade squabble echoes in Europe”
Is Europe more a functioning political entity or a state of mind?
Fearing the threat of American and Chinese tech dominance, the EU’s latest wheeze is the Gaia-X project: an ambitious proposal to build “massive” European cloud computing infrastructure. Continue reading “Europe’s Cloud: No silver lining”
What’s the most useful model of tech to keep in your head. Most models are rationalisations of the status quo. But tech forces us to visualise something which exists everywhere but is developing constantly. Watching the foundation-of-Facebook movie ‘The Social Network‘ is a start but probably not enough.
For a structured but approachable model, listen to the podcast ‘Software has eaten the world’ by Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape and tech venture capital pioneer.
He captures the pervasive quality of tech – and positions it as the fundamental driver of change in our environment and lives (at a pinch, you might also throw in the vastly increased mobility of peoples in recent years). He demonstrates this through three claims about the world:
Continue reading “How to think about tech”
Confused by Facebook’s Libra proposal for a digital currency? The commentariat seems unable to decide if it’s a giant money-laundering cum tax-dodging scam or redundant on the grounds of necessity.
You might want to look at it from Mark Zuckerberg’s point of view. The digital revolution has collapsed the cost of storing, transmitting and verifying data. So we ought to be in a new golden age of money management: instantly and costlessly sending money around the world. Er … not quite. Somehow your bank wants you to spend more time with it than you would like, preferably bringing multiple forms of ID, whenever you have a new way of using your money.
Continue reading “There’s more to Libra than meets the eye”